The Heart of Il Borro


Picture 1 of 6

The rustic exteriors of the farmhouses that make up the accommodations at Il Borro belie the elegance found within (photos courtesy Il Borro).

Precious few icons of hospitality resonate more than an elegant bottle of wine and a luxury hotel, and a dapper gentle- man with an iconic name would like to introduce you to his vision of both. And never has it been harder to choose from the myriad offerings that are before us today.

Even as recently as the late 1980s, which may be before some readers were born, but which the rest of us still claim as being “in recent history,” it wasn’t all that difficult to be in the ballpark when selecting, say, a good bottle of Italian red wine, or finding one of the better places to bunk down in a foreign land. One just had a good sense for the good brands: they’d all been around for a long time. That “longevity-must-equal-quality” aspect applied to many products, including winemaking and lodgings. In contrast, walking into the local wine shop today presents something of a dilemma before a bottle is chosen—there’s a seemingly massive sea of labels from every corner of the world, and below the bottles, tags with some kind of points tally that usually reads in a narrow range between 92 and 98.

Ignoring that whomever graded the vintage may have an entirely different palate than the person who will ultimately drink the wine, this dilemma regarding which bottle to choose usually ends up with an unfortunate outcome: I picked this bottle because I like, uh, Kangaroos? or I’ve never heard of some of these, so I’ll just stick with the last one that I liked… and one’s potential adventure in discovering the nuanced flavors and bouquet of a new wine doesn’t make it past the end of the aisle.

It is into this modern world of global competition on a grand scale, where one’s expectations can be swayed or set by something as recently contrived as “an influencer,” that Salvatore Ferragamo Jr. has stepped, and boldly so, as the CEO of this family venture. A few solid years shy of entering his fifth decade, he is the dashing scion of the fashion house whose name he carries, and whose reputation for delivering only the finest is universally known. And with that preamble to set the scale of the challenge faced by his family in bringing sustainable and organic wine to market, not to mention reimagining a true medieval village complete with the narrowest of walkways (they only had to be wide enough to let two donkeys pass each other) and ancient buildings perched upon a rocky outcropping, we find ourselves at Il Borro. Set in south-eastern Tuscany, below Florence and close to the town of Arezzo, the land was held by a succession of storied families over the centuries, before passing to the ownership and stewardship of Ferrucio Ferragamo, Salvatore Jr.’s father.

Il Borro, as described by the younger Mr. Ferragamo, is “much more than just a 700-hectare estate with a vineyard and a hotel; it is a bio-sustainable winery,” adding that “pesticides and herbicides are not used in our vineyards, nor in the Orto del Borro,” which is their organic vegetable farm that supplies the chefs with the freshest produce. “The earliest records date back to the 12th century, but experts think that there were permanent dwellings here long before that era,” he explains. The hotel accommodations at Il Borro include a variety of actual farmhouses—which are rustic-only-on-the-outside—villas, the “Dimorra” palace at the heart of the estate, which dates from the mid 19th century, and quite uniquely, rooms at an authentic medieval village.

This branch of the Ferragamo family embarked on a mission to develop wines that would not only hold their own, but would also forge a pioneering path ahead with organic, sustainable and carbon-neutral wine production methods, and a luxury hotel, which has earned its place as one of the finest Relais & Châteaux establishments (there’s only one hotel with that designation here in Hawai‘i—Maui’s Hotel Wailea). The estate’s cellar features 11 bottles, which include a grappa, a vinsanto and the Bolle di Borro which literally translates to “Borro Bubbles.”

When speaking of the wine, and participating in this year’s upcoming Hawai‘i Food and Wine Festival, Ferragamo recounts everyone’s eager anticipation of the event on Maui. “We were even visited by one of the chefs from Hawai‘i,” he recounts. “Our wine- makers and Italian chefs began the conversation about which wine to bring with us.” Which begs the question of exactly which types of wine are being brought. “We won’t know that until very close to the event.” Their anticipation is mirrored here in the islands, with the hope that one of their special anfora (Italian for “amphora”) wines will cross the oceans and land on the Valley Isle come Oct. 20.

Just two years prior, a conversation with the core group of winemakers in Arezzo revealed that the ancient craft of aging wine not in oak barrels, but in clay amphorae was being introduced. Il Borro’s winemakers eagerly signed up to revive the ancient practice, now using organic methods, and the result is a unique red wine that has a particularly clean flavor, without the flavors imparted by aging in barrels. When speaking of artisanal methods, it doesn’t get more original than recreating an art that has survived millennia and bringing it into the modern world. Each bottle is dipped in wax to seal the cork in, and a label that doesn’t bear the signature Ferragamo luxury goods logo is applied. “We want our wine to be purchased on its own merit,” explains Ferragamo. “While other fashion houses may put their name on a bottle of wine, home accessories or even a resort, we truly work to deliver excellence without relying on the (luxury goods) Ferragamo name.”

This candor and honesty about the estate’s mission is repeated in multiple touch points on the property—nowhere will anyone find excessive trappings of manufactured luxury. Instead, guests are surrounded by the carefully preserved authentic patina of Il Borro. Preserving the land while telling its story is something that truly differentiates the estate. There’s nothing more real than walking along a cobbled path that has existed for centuries and realizing that every room and suite in the medieval village section has been named for a notable prior occupant. The owners’ meticulous research and preservation of the past has been perfectly complimented by the best in Italian design. One senses that despite stepping back a thousand years in time, the conveniences of modern life are always close at hand and carefully integrated so that vistas and scenes remain as pure as the wine being served, in ancient times or today.

Theme developed by TouchSize - Premium WordPress Themes and Websites